On our first official night in Israel, we slept great! Thank you Lord! We woke up with bright eyes and were absolutely starving!
Mr. Atchley and I got dressed for the day and packed up our suitcases yet again. Today our group would travel north along the coast into the Galilee, and then stop for the next few nights in Tiberias, where we would check into a different hotel. Now, if you travel to Israel with a tour group, the hotels may handle your luggage a bit differently than what you might expect. We were told to put our luggage outside of our room, leave it there and go to the restaurant for breakfast. While we were off eating, they would send a porter (bellhop) to pick up our suitcases left out in the hallway.
|See the suitcases?|
Once it was time to load up on the bus, our luggage would already be waiting for us down in the lobby where we would identify it to a hotel porter. After we pointed out our bags, the porter would then proceed to load them on the bus for us. Let me just say... most of us Americans were quite leery of leaving our luggage unattended in the hotel hallways and just walking away. Ha! But, if you travel with a tour group... that's how it's done. When in Israel, do as they tell you! *wink* Also, it's totally worth mentioning... at almost every hotel we stayed at in Israel, they had a porter who was armed with a very serious-looking gun. (more to come on this)
Now, back to breakfast... it was SO good y'all, even without any bacon or sausage! Ha! There were lots of choices... fruits, cheeses, figs, eggs and so many delicious pastries! And hands down, Israel has the absolute best coffee in the world! We were in caffeine heaven! Seriously... eating your morning meal while looking out over the Mediterranean Sea? It doesn't get much better than that!
|We loved seeing all those Israeli flags waving in the wind!|
|I could totally get used to that view!|
After breakfast, we boarded the bus and Ami taught us all how to say "good morning" in Hebrew... "Boker Tov"! (boh-kehr tohv) We drove through Tel Aviv while singing "This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!" Pastor John also read Psalm 91. And verse 14 really hit me hard when I heard it...
"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will protect him, for he hath known my name." When we trust in Him, we can rest in Him! Amen to that!
As we neared Caesarea by the Sea, we saw a nearby power plant. Of course, this really intrigued Mr. Atchley since this is his line of business, so he started asking questions. Ami explained that Israel has coal, oil, nuclear and natural gas power plants. Fuel oil and coal must be imported to Israel, which in turn makes energy costs very expensive. Gas in Israel is currently $8.00 per gallon! Can y'all even imagine... $8.00?!? Arab nations refuse to sell oil to Israel, so they must buy it from Europe. Israel buys its coal from Australia.
|Israeli power plant...|
Back to Caesarea by the Sea... it was once the Roman capital of Palestine. During the time of Christ, Pontius Pilate was the governor here. We toured an old Roman theatre, saw an aqueduct and a Crusader Byzantine Fortress. Lots of history here... and truly unbelievable to think it was built in 20 BC under the authority of Herod "the Great". Herod wasn't even close to being a great person by the way, but he sure had a knack for building grand, elaborate structures. Remember reading the scripture from Acts 10 in my last post? Well, this is the place that Peter led Cornelius the Centurion and his household to Christianity. According to scripture, Cornelius was the first non-Jew to believe in Jesus! There were so many amazing sites...
|This is a 2,000 year old Roman in-ground swimming pool!|
Herod thought of everything!
|Gorgeous historic structures...|
I was so busy admiring all the beautiful architecture, I didn't even have time to goof off. Not.
|I really love my Pastor.|
When we loaded back up on our tour bus, our sweet driver Geora had left candy for each of us in our seats. Awww! Y'all, he was the sweetest thing! He drove and parked that bus like a BOSS!!! We were always so happy to see Geora come and pick us up!
|Sorry, blurry candy photo.|
And here's a shot of my gal Amy and I on the bus... she's always making me pose for pictures! Rabbit ears courtesy of Mr. Atchley.
Next up, we headed to Mount Carmel. When you read 1 Kings 18, we know that this is the location that the prophet Elijah proved that there is only one Almighty God. He called upon the Lord, and God sent fire down from Heaven at this place! It gave me goosebumps and I nearly started shoutin' my praise!
|Standing on Mount Carmel, overlooking the Kishon Valley.|
Remember reading about the Kishon Valley? This is where Elijah had the false prophets of Baal slaughtered. Well, down in this valley, there is also a long runway that belongs to the Israeli Air Force. Can you see it?
Well, Pastor John told us an interesting story about something he witnessed here 15 years ago, involving two Israeli fighter jets. He was touring with a group of about 50 people, and as they stood on Mount Carmel they could see these two fighter jets flying maneuvers overhead. Suddenly, the jets turned and headed for that runway... and the group expected to watch them land. Y'all... this next part of the story is gonna make your hair stand on end, I promise.
Then Pastor tells us... right before those jets touched down to land on that runway above... they flew underground. Yes... you read that right. The ground opened up and those jets flew underground. Apparently, there is an underground runway near the one you see pictured above. Goosebumps, y'all! Don't ever doubt the Israeli military, folks. They are the best in the world!
Here's a shot of my cute hubby, lookin' like a professional tourist! *wink*
|Hey good lookin'.|
Next up, it was lunch time! We stopped in at this cute Arab coffee bar/restaurant... and had our first taste of local fish, hummus and falafel! Falafel is widely considered to be the national dish of Israel, and I know why! It was soooo good!
|Most lunches were served family-style.|
|Yes, I washed down all my food|
with a good ole Coke!
After lunch, we drove through the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo!
(Y'all, I know this post is getting longer by the minute, but we packed in so many things each day! We just kept going! And I feel the need to tell you about every.single.thing. So, pour yourself another coffee and keep reading! Ha!) #blessmylongwindedheart
Megiddo is believed by many Christians to be the site of the coming battle of Armageddon, based on Revelation 16:16. Historians also believe that more battles were fought at this location than anywhere else on earth. It was also at one time the location of one of Solomon's chariot cities. While there, we climbed down 183 steps in a long, dark tunnel to see a spring/water system built long ago by King Ahab. We even saw ruins of private stables, where King Solomon kept his chariots and horses. Cody, Lucas and I even saw two of Solomon's real horses hooked up to a chariot that we actually got to drive!
|Okay, not really.|
But close enough.
I even saw my very first pomegranate tree here! It was cool!
And, we may or may not have seen more date trees and convinced someone to climb up and pick some for us. We were hoping this wasn't illegal. After all, we're just a bunch of clueless Americans.
|Sadly, the dates weren't fully ripe yet.|
But, I still convinced Cody and Lucas to eat one.
We packed a lot of amazing sights into this day, so the group was ready to head to the hotel in Tiberias. Mr. A and I had a lovely room with a balcony and beautiful view, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
|The fishing boat adds a nice touch,|
It was all we could do to keep our eyes open at dinner that night. We went back to our room and were in bed before 9 pm! Our wake-up call would come very early the next morning... but Mr. Atchley and I were so looking forward to what was in store for us next!
Coming up... I'll tell y'all of an event that ranks as one of our top 3 favorite moments of our time in Israel!